Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: "Flatliners" is not thrilling, scary, or provoking

Flatliners Review

Back in 1990, there was a film released called "Flatliners." It had big stars in it, including Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and William Baldwin. The film followed five medical students who began to experiment with "near death" experiences. That is until, the dark consequences of their experiments and their findings began to jeopardize their lives. It was a horrible movie. It was horribly thought out, horribly written, horribly photographed, horribly edited and for a movie featuring a bunch of big stars, horribly acted.

Now in 2017, we get a remake of "Flatliners" from 1990. Now, I will say that I was a tad hopeful for this remake. Remake culture is completely backwards here in America. When you remake something that was already lauded as a classic, or already was a hit with audiences on its original release, it just seems like you are setting yourself up to fail. Yes, there is money to be made making something people remember as being popular, but money is a profit, not a good creative choice. So many remakes fail simply because they are trying to mimic the success of a movie that already achieved it. I love the idea of remaking garbage that had a good idea, but maybe that good idea wasn't brought to life well. In the new "Flatliners" movie, I can understand the idea of people being haunted by their past, buried in guilt for tragedies they caused, and wanting to know what happens after we die. I thought we could have had a decent new film.

Except director Niels Arden Oplev makes every wrong decision in remaking this movie. Once again, "Flatliners" is horribly thought out, horribly written, horribly photographed, horribly edited and while there are several well-known faces in the movie, it is horribly acted. Kiefer Sutherland shows up as a doctor, and its honestly one of the worst appearances he's made in front of a camera anywhere in a long, long time. The special effects used in visions of the afterlife are atrocious and ugly to look at. I tried desperately to find a saving grace muddled in this dreck, and all I could find was just a fairly interesting idea once again getting squandered in a bad movie.

Ellen Page plays Courtney, a medical student who is suffering from memories of a car accident she triggered that got her younger sister killed. She becomes obsessed about the afterlife and what comes after death. So much so that she asks two of her fellow students, Jamie (James Newton and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), to stop her heart for a short period which will cause a near-death experience. How Courtney could possibly know if she'll see anything at all due to a temporary heart stop is anybody's guess. She doesn't seem to care if anything could go wrong and she ends up dead, or the feelings of her peers, but for most of the movie Courtney comes off more as a robot than a human, so I guess I am not surprised.

Suddenly, after Courtney has a positive experience in the "afterlife," Jamie decides to flatline, and Sophia decides to flatline. I mean why not? Courtney comes back knowing how to play piano, and she miraculously becomes the best student in their class. How she is able to pull this off is kinda explained, kinda not and that guessing game becomes a distraction. But then their other friend Marlo (Nina Dorbev) flatlines too! They all become flatline buddies, despite their other friend Ray (Diego Luna) advising not to. Then, they all have scary visions, and they try to figure out why.

The visions are explained, but the explanation is not exciting and it is not thrilling. In fact, there are a couple of revelations at the end of the movie, and I suppose they were meant to be provocative, but they end up falling short. We don't care about the characters, because they spend the whole movie acting dumb and they aren't particularly likable or identifiable. So why should we care what happens to them? There are moments that are supposed to be thrilling, but aren't. There are moments that are supposed to be scary, but aren't. Tones shift in and out like a fart in the wind. Much of the film doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

I guess there are some ideas, no matter what, that should not be made in movies. I guess some ideas just don't translate out onto the screen. If the idea sounds cool to you, don't waste your money on this movie. Hop on your Netflix account and track down the original movie "The Discovery." That movie deals in the similar territory in a much more profound, thoughtful way. This movie, much like its predecessor, is just a big waste of time, across the board.

FINAL GRADE: D-

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